LAX may be busiest airport in U.S. over holiday

Los Angeles International Airport is about to claim a title that may spell trouble for holiday airline passengers this month.

LAX is expected to be the nation’s busiest airport for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to ticket sales on Orbitz, one of the nation’s busiest travel websites. The website determines the annual ranking by calculating ticket sales for the nation’s top 50 airports for the weekend, which this year is Nov. 23-27.

Officials at LAX said they have yet to tally all ticket sales for the airport for the long weekend. Still, they said LAX typically ranks among the nation’s three busiest airports during the holidays.


From Nov. 19 to Nov. 28 of last year, 1.53 million passengers flew in and out of LAX, and airport officials predict the airport will surpass that total this year.

Based on the Orbitz ranking, LAX takes over at the top spot, replacing Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, which is expected to drop to second place, ahead of Orlando International, San Francisco International and Boston’s Logan International airports. Orbitz declined to say how many tickets it sold for each airport.

But there is some good news for Southern Californians looking for an airport with more elbow room: The Orbitz ranking found that John Wayne Airport in Orange County, about 40 miles southeast of LAX, will be one of the nation’s three least busy major airports for the holiday.

The other major commercial airports in the region, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and Ontario International Airport, did not make Orbitz’s list. But passengers should find those airports easier to maneuver than LAX.

Last year, Bob Hope Airport served nearly 4.6 million passengers, a drop of 22% from the pre-recession peak of 2007, while Ontario served 93,717 passengers last year, a decline of 36% from 2007, according to airport statistics.

Airline offers VIP check in

Another way to avoid crowds at LAX is to take advantage of a new check-in service that lets VIP passengers on American Airlines zip into the terminal through a special entrance leading to a “premium” security line.

But the new service is not available to the average passenger.

The new Flagship Check-in is offered by American Airlines only for its most valued passengers. That includes first-class passengers on long-haul flights and members of the airline’s Concierge Key and Five Star Service programs, which are available to high-spending passengers who travel often and fly in the airlines’ premium seats. The new check-in gate is in the east end of Terminal 4.

Passengers using this service still go through the same security process as everyone else, but they have a faster and more exclusive line to get there.

Other airlines at LAX offer similar services for VIP passengers, but American officials say the Flagship program is different because it offers one-on-one service for each flier.

“Flagship Check-In provides the exclusivity and seamless service that our high-end customers value,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s chief commercial officer.

The new service, which began this month, would be ideal for Hollywood celebrities who want to race into the terminal and avoid paparazzi who case the airport, according to an American Airlines spokesman.

LAX is the first airport where American has launched the service, but the airline plans to expand it to additional airports next year.

Also next year, the Transportation Security Administration plans to expand to American Airlines at LAX a pilot program that lets those passengers who pre-qualify to speed through security lines without removing their shoes or coats by submitting background information in advance.

Hotel lets guests walk for discount

A hotel in Westwood is rewarding guests who defy the stereotype that Angelenos don’t walk.

Hotel Palomar last month began rewarding guests who walk at least 10,000 steps a day with a 50% discount on their next hotel stay. To record the achievement, the hotel hands out free pedometers and walking maps to guests who sign up for the Walk This Way package.

The package, which will be offered until June 30, also includes a $20 credit for food and drinks at the hotel. The deal is also available at the Hotel Palomar San Diego.

For the average person, 10,000 steps is about five miles of walking. It’s a target that first gained popularity in Japan in the 1960s as a daily goal to remain healthy and active.

The Hotel Palomar Los Angeles suggests that guests who wish to walk 10,000 steps circle nearby Holmby Park or the UCLA campus.

But if the weather turns gloomy or guests fear venturing into L.A.'s crowded streets, hotel staff members said they would allow guests to carry out the 10,000-step challenge on a treadmill in the hotel’s gym.